Tomato Market Garden

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by duke3522, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. duke3522

    duke3522 Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2004
    Hi Everyone,

    My name is Duke and I live in an old farm house on 2.77 acres with my DW Lori and DS Rick. My DW and I suffer from a variety of health problems, but between DW’s SSDI and my internet sales and buying and selling around town we manage to get by.

    About 3 years ago when DW first became ill I let the farmer around us plow the back acre so that I would not have to mow it. And in exchange he was to mow my front field (about ½ acre) as well. The problem was that he only mowed my field when it got really high. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the farmer, or one of his crew, would come by here every few weeks on a tractor with 2-60” mower decks cutting the ditches along the road. They could have pulled in and cut my field in about 5 minutes.

    So since our finances have improved of late, this year I found myself a good John Deere garden tractor and cut my own front field. And since my DW is well enough that she no longer requires my full time attention, my thoughts have turned to taking back my back field from said farmer and trying to make a few bucks off that area.

    So my thoughts have turned to tomatoes. Here in Indiana summer tomatoes are almost a religion. The poor pathetic things they try to pass off as tomatoes in the stores cannot even begin to be compared to the excellent tomatoes my mother grew in that very field.

    My idea would be to begin by growing about 10 different varieties including several heirlooms so that I could meet a niche market that the wal-mart super center, that is less than a mile away, cannot grab. (Just a note: Even in a town like Marion we have urban sprawl. When my dad bought this place in 1965 we had so little traffic that the local drag racers had a track marked out on the road about 150 yards to our west. When we were kids we would set in the window and watch them race. Today we have more traffic in a day than we had in a week back then. Oh well guess that’s good for selling tomatoes.)

    I also plan to try and have very early and very late garden fresh tomatoes. As well as growing some peppers and melons to help the product mix.

    If anyone has any ideas or comments please feel free to chime in.

    Sorry about droneing on
  2. painterswife

    painterswife Sock puppet reinstated Supporter

    Jun 7, 2004
    I don't know about the market there, but here in Wyoming one farmer has created a very nice niche by growing in greenhouses and marketing to the restaurants. He has spent alot of years perfecting his crop and market but it is paying off very well.

  3. Ole Man Legrand

    Ole Man Legrand Well-Known Member

    Nov 15, 2003
    Here in N.C. the cash flow seems to be in peppers $2. each in the stores. Next year my extra space will be in peppers.
  4. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 24, 2003
    If you can get past the irregular shape Brandywine is our overall favorite because of taste and often 1-2lb fruit. Even during a cool wet summer we grew some beastly brandywines....still ripening a few inside (Maine)

    Celebrity and jet star have a nice consistent size and shape.

    Larger size cherries are also nice to have.

    We built re-mesh cages ( a little expensive) but are great supports for tomatoes about 18 in diameter and 5ft tall.

    We love tomatoes! Happy growing!
  5. mama2littleman

    mama2littleman El Paso

    Nov 8, 2004
    Home grown veggies are a great way to make extra income if there is a market for them. I've lived in a whole bunch of places all over the country and the world,and religiously attend farmer's markets (here in Germany they are a cultural necessity). Here is what I've observed ...

    People who spend the time to make their booths visually appealing get the most business

    People who sell "unusual" products like heirlooms along with staples can charge a premium for their product

    One of the most sucessful market growers I've ever met used to sell his family's heirloom tomatoes out of a booth but also had the same heirlooms as potted plants in decorative planters with some basil and marigold in the pot. Those things sold like hotcakes and he was charging $15 for a plant in a 1 gallon pot with about 3 marigolds and a couple of basil plants to fill it in. WHen the plants actually started to set blooms and small baby green tomatoes he could get between $20 to $25 a pot for a single tomatoe plant. The earlier he could get them to that point, the more he could charge. Everyone wants to have the first tomatoe on the block.

    Be social with your customers. There has been more than one time when I have gone to the nice grandma and grampa selling produce who would take a few minutes to tell me the best way to utilize the specific tomato, pepper, anything that I was buying instead of the grumpy person who doesn't even say hello to me even if his price is a dime a pound cheaper.

    Oh, people love freebies. So if you're selling a vegetable and can include a small bunch of basil or oregano or whatever you may have a little bit of excess of or even a recipe it makes people feel good, and liely to come back.

    Granted, this is advice from a consumer not an experienced market gardener. I'm just telling you what I look for and what has seemed to work for others I have known.

  6. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2004
    You could also have a "pick your own" choice for customers. It would save you alot of labor. You just provide the baskets or bags and weigh the stuff when the customer comes in from the fields.
  7. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

    Dec 11, 2002
    NE PA
    I'll play a little devil's advocate here.
    Depending on your customers, heirlooms might be a hard sell, especially
    in the beginning, and
    you should maybe start small with them so that you can gradually
    educate them.
    Second, if you will be growing as an "official" business, the
    pick-your-own idea might be a good one, but the liability is much
    greater, and insurance could be much higher. Check that out.
    Third, grow some regular tomatoes and only a few "unusual" ones
    unless you have a definite idea of specific customers who would go
    for them, or of a restaurant who could take them.
    Finally, again start small, as it is very discouraging to grow beautiful stuff,
    then find that you have so much left over, you either have to discard it or
    give it away. Plan to freeze, can or dry enough for yourself to get you from
    one season to the next. It may not put money in your pocket, but it will take
    less out of your pocket over the winter.
    P. S. Other crop ideas: zucchini and yellow summer squash, cucumbers, pole
    green beans (easier to pick than bush). If you want a longer season, you
    might try winter squash and pumpkins. I have good luck also with garlic
    which needs to be planted in the fall. Good luck.